Differences: Arabica and Robusta Coffee

Although arabica and robusta coffee may appear similar appearance - there are a number of differences that significantly differentiate these two popular species of coffee. The following list points out a few basic differences. 

1. Growing Conditions: The arabica coffee shrub typically grows between 2.5-4.5 meters in height, requires a temperature between 15o-24oC and an annual rainfall of about 1200-2200 mm/yr. Whereas robusta grows slightly taller 4.5 -6.5m, requires a warmer temperatures of 18o-36oC and slightly more rainfall (2200-3000 mm/yr) than arabica. Arabica typically also yields less coffee per hectare than robusta - meaning higher costs in production.  

 
 Arabica
Robusta
Altitude
 600-2200m
0-800m
Rainfall
1200-2200mm
2200-3000mm
Temperature
15-24oC
18-36oC

2. Bean Shape: Arabica coffee beans are have a slightly larger/elliptical shape than the smaller, more round robusta beans. Structural differences also exist between the beans, which may explain why both beans roast differently under identical conditions.  

 Image
 Image
 Arabica
Robusta

 3. Caffeine and Chlorogenic Acid: - Both caffeine and CGA have been documented as potential insect deterrents and chemisterilants. Arabica generally has less caffeine and chlorogenic acid (CGA) than robusta.    

 

 
Chlorogenic Acid

   Arabica Robusta
Caffeine 1.2% 2.2%
Chlorogenic acid (CGA) 5.5-8.0% 7.0-10.0%

  

 4. Lipid and Sugar Content: Arabica contains almost 60% more lipids and almost twice the concentration of sugar than robusta. Increased levels of sugars in coffee play an important role as its decomposition during roasting increase the level of perceived acidity and dissolved solubles in coffee. 

 

   Arabica Robusta
Sugar (sucrose)
 6-9% 3-7%
Lipids 15-17% 10-11.5%

 

5. Pollination: Arabica is self-pollinating plant, meaning the plant will have fewer mutations and fewer variations throughout its life cycle as compared to robusta.

6. Chromosomes: Arabica has double the number of chromosomes at 44 than robusta at 22.  

While not comprehensive these are some of the basic differences between the both coffee species. 

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